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"Trumpís Florida visits puts small airport in tailspin"


 
Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trumpís Florida visits puts small airport in tailspin
By Terry Spencer
The Associated Press


Lantana, Fla. ó President Donald Trump wants small businesses to thrive, but 
his frequent Mar-a-Lago visits have flight schools and other companies at a 
nearby airport in a financial nosedive.

The Secret Service closed Lantana Airport on Friday for the third straight 
weekend because of the presidentís return to his Palm Beach resort, meaning its 
maintenance companies, a banner-flying business and another two dozen 
businesses are also shuttered, costing them thousands of dollars at the yearís 
busiest time. The banner-flying company says it has lost more than $40,000 in 
contracts already.

The airport, which handles only small, propeller-driven planes and helicopters, 
is about 6 miles southwest of Mar-a-Lago, well within the 10-mile circle around 
the resort thatís closed to most private planes when heís in town. Trump flies 
into Palm Beach International Airport, which is 2.5 miles from Mar-a-Lago, and 
remains opens as it handles commercial flights. Small private planes can also 
use that airport during presidential visits if they meet certain stringent 
conditions.

The Lantana owners are pushing compromises they say will ensure Trumpís 
security while keeping their businesses open. They involve letting pilots fly 
in a closely monitored corridor headed away from the resort until they are 
outside a 10-mile ban around Mar-a-Lago and a 30-mile zone where flying lessons 
are restricted. Pilots, planes and cargo would undergo preflight screening by 
Transportation Security Administration agents.

ďNone of us are suggesting that we shouldnít do everything to keep the 
president safe but we believe there are things that can be done to keep us in 
operation,Ē said Jonathan Miller, the contractor who operates the Palm Beach 
County-owned airport.

The airport and its 28 businesses have an economic impact of about $27 million 
annually and employ about 200 people full-time, many of them making about 
$30,000 a year. They donít get paid when the airport is closed.

Miller is already losing a helicopter company, which is moving rather than deal 
with the closures. That will cost him $440,000 in annual rent and fuel sales.

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham directed questions to the Secret 
Service. The agency also declined comment. Flight restrictions have long been 
standard around buildings where a president is staying to protect him from an 
airborne attack.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat who represents the area, met with the 
business owners this week. She said she will meet with the Secret Service next 
week to see if a compromise can be reached.

Jorge Gonzalez, owner of SkyWords Advertising, a banner towing service, said 
his company lost four contracts totaling $42,500 because of Trumpís visits. He 
wants exceptions made for three pilots to fly within the restricted zone when 
the president visits because it is where thousands of residents live and 
tourists stay.
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